Real Patients, Real Stories

Kaysville engineer, family man back to enjoying life after kidney scare



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By Melinda Rogers

For a second, Steven Hadfield wondered if he had been shot.

A piercing pain flooded down Hadfield’s back as he sat next to a friend at his job at L-3 Communications in downtown Salt Lake City. As thoughts raced through the Kaysville engineer’s mind in April 2012 as to what could possibly be the source of his agony, he knew one thing: He needed good medical care and he needed it fast.

“I had this terrible pain in my back, like someone had shot me,” recalled the 58-year-old Hadfield, who wondered if perhaps he had a kidney stone. “I stood up and handed my car keys to my friend and said ‘Get me to the University of Utah Hospital.’”

Hadfield and his friend drove to University Hospital, arriving 20 minutes later on a quick route they’d developed when traveling to campus for a continuing education class together. Passing two other hospitals on the way from downtown didn’t matter. Hadfield knew it was the U. he wanted.

Hadfield arrived at University Hospital’s emergency room, where it was determined that his condition was dire. Doctors believed he was bleeding to death internally.

With no time to lose, doctors rushed Hadfield into surgery, with Larry Kraiss, M.D., chief of the U.’s division of vascular surgery, assembling a team from various parts of campus to work on Hadfield’s case. Surgeons found that his left kidney had ruptured and stopped the bleeding by using a procedure that routed a catheter from his femoral artery to his renal artery, instead of cracking his chest open to operate. That decision may have saved his life, Hadfield realizes.

“If I had gone to another hospital, they might have opened up my chest to try to find the bleeding and could have cost me my life,” he said.

After three hours of surgery, Hadfield’s kidney bleeding was stopped and he was placed in intensive care, where he would spend the next week. His surgery team had replaced an astonishing eight units of blood during the operation.

But weathering the life-saving operation wasn’t the end of Hadfield’s story. Blake Hamilton, M.D., a renowned urologic surgeon at University Hospital, informed Hadfield that he had tumors in both kidneys and would need two separate operations to address the potential cancers.

Hadfield was discharged from University Hospital and planned to return to undergo more operations with Hamilton after he had more fully recovered from the initial crisis.

Two weeks after returning home, Hadfield found himself back in the ER with excruciating stomach pains. Terrified that a complication had arisen from his surgery, Hadfield found out he’d been unlucky to develop gallstones following the trauma he’d experienced.

After the gallstones were removed, Hadfield was discharged again. Several weeks later, in June 2012, he returned to the U. so Hamilton could remove the tumor from his right kidney with a robotic procedure that successfully preserved most of the right kidney. Fortunately, that tumor was benign, and several months later the left kidney was removed, with its cancer and surrounding scarring from the initial bleeding episode.

“Kidney tumors don’t usually bleed and don’t usually occur simultaneously in both kidneys. Mr. Hadfield had bad luck on both counts,” said Hamilton. “Gratefully, Dr. Kraiss and his team kept him alive, so that we could address both tumors. As of now, he’s cancer-free and back to his normal activities.”

Throughout the stressful medical journey Hadfield endured last year, he and his wife, Denise, have marveled at the care received from University of Utah medical teams.

“The level of care I got during that time was just outstanding. The nurses were so kind. The doctors and their teams were stunning,” said Hadfield. “Everyday they talked to me and said, ‘You’re making progress. This is good.’”

“As terrible as it was —and I wouldn’t want to wish it on my worst enemy —from the perspective of the hospital, I was very impressed,” he said.

Hadfield’s wife was also impressed with the hospital.

“I can’t think of one person who wasn’t kind and concerned about the patient. No matter who treated us—and we encountered dozens and dozens of different staff people —there wasn’t anyone who wasn’t just amazing,” said Denise Hadfield.

Now fully recovered, Hadfield visits Hamilton every six months for check-ups. He feels healthier than he has in years, and has returned to work full-time at his job as an electronics engineer at L-3 Communications.

He also has plenty of energy for time with his eight grandchildren, four daughters and their spouses, as well as traveling with his wife.

“I feel better than I used to. I feel healthy and strong and I’ve lost weight,” said Hadfield. “It’s so great to have a level 1 trauma care center like University Hospital that is so focused on the individual, 24/7. They have the right people there all the time, and I received great care around the clock.”


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